Obituary: Professor Tom Bottomore

Thomas Burton Bottomore, sociologist, born 8 April 1920, Reader in Sociology London School of Economics 1952-64, Professor of Sociology Simon Fraser University Vancouver 1965-67, Professor of Sociology Sussex University 1968- 85, books include Karl Marx: selected writings in sociology and social philosophy (with Maximilien Rubel) 1956, Sociology: a guide to problems and literature 1962, Elites and Society 1964, Classes in Modern Society 1965, Austro- Marxism (with P. Goode) 1978, Political Sociology 1979, A Dictionary of Marxist Thought 1981, Theories of Modern Capitalism 1985, died Ditchling East Sussex 9 December 1992.

TOM BOTTOMORE was Britain's best-known and most highly regarded sociologist. He had a remarkable international reputation; wherever one went one encountered his own students and also people who had found his books the most accessible and enlightening entry into the subject. Those who knew him loved him and his death will be a great personal blow to many people. He was revered in the Third World and especially in India. His textbook Sociology (1962) was first written for Indian students and went through successive editions over several decades. He was widely respected for his untiring international work, especially for his presidency of the International Sociological Association.

Bottomore was trained at the LSE and became a lecturer there, until he left to become Professor at Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, in 1965. In 1968 he returned to Sussex University and remained there until he 'retired' in 1985. The conference to mark his retirement showed how great had been his influence, drawing a galaxy of Britain's best-known scholars. Bottomore, however, kept going as active as ever until the day of his death. Among his many projects was a magisterial dictionary of 20th-century social thought (edited with William Outhwaite) that will be published shortly.

Bottomore was a lifelong Marxist. His Marxism was open, undogmatic and humane, and his work was highly regarded by non-Marxists. His selection of the writings of Karl Marx (edited with Maximilien Rubel) was published in 1956 and was for many thousands their first encounter with the real Marx. It remains the best short collection to this day. His books Elites and Society (1964) and Classes in Modern Society (1965) showed that sociology did not have to be polysyllabic and inaccessible. Later on he returned to his interests in economic sociology and produced a number of remarkable books, including his commentary on TH Marshall's Citzenship, published in 1992.

Bottomore was a great force for calm and sanity in the overcharged world of sociology after the student revolts of 1968 and the intense theoretical debates and dogmatic conflicts of the 1970s. He championed the democratic and civilised Marxism of the Austrians, whose country he loved. He was a great teacher, best in small groups and with graduate students. Often he would sit quietly, listening to strident opinions and then would inject sense and balance with a few quiet and well- chosen words.

His greatest sorrow was the death of his beloved second wife, Mary, which denied him the companionship in his retirement that he had enjoyed during their life together. He responded to this bitter blow with characteristic dignity and courage. He continued to advocate peace, social justice, the cause of the world's poor and excluded, but also democracy and sanity. He was never a believer in the violent revolutionary extremism of the Left, equally he was sure that the divisive and rigid right-wing economic liberalism that was so fashionable in the 1980s would pass away and that saner and kinder ideas would come to prevail.

If there is a word to sum up Tom Bottomore's life it would be constancy. He pursued his course untroubled by fashion and with indifference to pretension.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power